Women's Participation in Politics and Government in Indonesia

Saturday, May 1, 2010
South Eastern Asia

Just as Indonesia varies geographically, culturally and socially, so do women across the archipelago.Women's roles have become increasingly public; women today enjoy many of the same educationalopportunities as men and make up a signi!cant proportion of the labour force. Women make up justunder half of the civil service, and there are now more women than ever sitting in parliament.

The Government of Indonesia is committed to upholding women's rights through a number of legalprovisions, and is signatory to several commitments and covenants regarding gender equality. While aPresidential Decree issued in 2000 mandates gender mainstreaming as a task to be undertaken by thegovernment, the Ministry of Women's Empowerment has drafted a new law on gender equality, whichthey hope to have passed this year, and implemented by 2011. The law would replace the PresidentialDecree in order to ensure gender sensitive policies are implemented across all ministries and localgovernments, and would have the legal jurisdiction to do so.There remain numerous barriers to women's participation in public life, which this paper aims to addressthrough an analysis of the challenges and opportunities and a series of policy recommendations.

There are no legal barriers to women's participation in politics and government, and while their numbersare increasing, they are still low. A quota for women to make up 30 percent of political candidates hasrecently been passed – this percentage is considered the critical mass required for women to participatemeaningfully in politics. Women's representation in the Indonesian House of Representatives (DPR RI) is 18 percent, and while political parties have mostly adhered to nominating 30 percent women, theirpositions within central boards has not been made clear. While women constitute 45.4 percent of thelabour force in the civil service, they are concentrated in the lowest echelons (2, 3 and 4). Only 9 percentof those working in the !rst echelon are women.

Indonesia has undergone significant political changes in its history, including large scaledecentralisation. This devolution of power from the central government to the provinces and down todistricts and municipalities has come with large scale institutional and regulatory policy changes, andcombined with parallel judicial systems, creates a complex environment in which women must !ndtheir way into and around.

This paper sets out a series of recommendations for increasing women's participation in politics andgovernment. These strategic areas aim to be not only holistic, but also to address both structural andfunctional barriers for women.

First, in order to change social attitudes towards women's participation in public life, greater publicawareness is required. This should take a long term approach, and include public awareness raisingaround gender, knowledge of democratic values and practices, the roles and responsilities of voters aswell how to hold elected officials accountable.

Second, while there are many regulatory frameworks favourable to women, the reform of legal, political,electoral and institutional policies could assist in creating an even more gender sensitive environment. A number of electoral laws enacted in the recent 2009 elections could be built upon, including makingmandatory the 30 percent quota of women candidates. This quota could also be extended beyond parliament to all government related institutions.

Third, the strengthening of those organisations mandated to address gender issues is a priority. A national gender capacity development plan should be developed for civil servants, electedrepresentatives, political parties, commissions and ministries. At the local, provincial and nationallevel, this type of training should be change focused, and based on regular follow ups and impactassessments.

Fourth, the mobilisation of the vast and varied groups of organisations, parties, caucuses andrepresentatives already active in Indonesia would serve to build networks and coalitions that could comewith a collective voice to undertake advocacy work. This would also function as a means of strengtheningthe capacities and strategies of these various groups.

Fifth and finally, the need for research and statistical evidence is critical for effective lobbying and policychange. While data on women's participation in politics and government exists, it is not being collectedin a central data base, or being regularly updated. Many ministries and institutions do not disaggragatetheir data by gender, which is also a challenge. The data base currently being developed by the UnitedNations Development Programme in Indonesia can be used as a baseline, but the Ministry for Women's Empowerment, along with other relevent ministries should take a lead role in further developing thisdata base, and in disseminating it widely.

These policy recommendations are not exhaustive, but they do aim to contribute to a growing discourseon this topic, which is of integral importance.

Document PDF: 

Women's Participation Politics Government Indonesia, UNDP, May 2010